Hi. LN is back.
Last year’s Grateful Dead Weekly has morphed into this year’s Grateful Dead Monthly. There are reasons for that – mainly, a blogpost about a GD show every week is a lot of work. And highlighting one show every month lets us focus not just on the lost gems, but also on the classics. May’s post was about 5/8/77. June’s post is about 6/10/73.
On June 10, 1973, the Grateful Dead played a three-setter at Washington, D.C.’s RFK Stadium. Originally named the “District of Columbia Stadium,” RFK opened in 1961. It was renamed in 1969 in honor of Robert Kennedy. The NFL’s Washington Redskins played there from the beginning until 1997, and MLB’s Washington Senator’s also played there until they moved and became the Texas Rangers in 1971.
6/10 was the second night of a quasi fest featuring the Dead and the Allman Brothers Band. The GD and the ABB had history. The latter opened for the former at the famed February 1970 shows at the Fillmore East (later memorialized as Dick’s Picks #4). And both played “closing” shows there in 1971. The Dead’s April shows were amazing, and became part of the Ladies and Gentlemen box set. The Allman’s March shows were probably better (or more well-known), and became part of their iconic At Fillmore East live record. They also played the final shows at FE in June of that year, and some of the invitation-only set on the last night appears on the reissue of Eat a Peach.
According to a really nice post on the WETA (D.C. pbs) website,
“The two bands’ managements laid plans in 1972 for them to do a tour together, and even scheduled concerts for the following spring in Athens, Ga. and Houston. But those were cancelled after yet another Allmans member, bassist Berry Oakley, was killed in a motorcycle crash. After the grieving subsided, according to rock historian Alan Paul’s book on the Allman Brothers, it was decided that the bands would play a scaled-down tour–a pair of concerts in Washington and another at the Watkins Glen racetrack in New York in the summer of 1973.”
The Watkins Glen stuff is material for another time – the Dead’s soundcheck jam (and its proto-“Fire on the Mountain”) will always be my favorite piece of music that they ever played. RFK is the point here. On 6/9, the Allman’s headlined. On 6/10, the Dead did. Doug Sahm was the opener for the first day and Wet Willie was for the second.
Apparently, both bands played long sets and the second show extended well past midnight. ECM, my Dead sensei and research go-to, told me that the shows shows used “GD’s prototype Wall of Sound with a stereo PA System with JBL speakers inside Alembic cabinets plus a stereo Auxiliary PA.” I can’t pretend to understand what means, but it seems cool. Tickets were $7, and the attendance was healthy.
The WETA blogpost is excellent, so I’ll quote it at length:
“When the horde descended upon Washington, pandemonium ensued. District police made a decision to allow concert-goers to hang out all night in the open area surrounding RFK Stadium–‘If 2,000 kids show up and sit on the grass all night, there’s not a hell of a lot you can do about it,’ Lt. Albert Yowell explained to the Washington Post. The bands’ fans took him up on that, partying until late and then sleeping in their cars outside the stadium so that they could get to the front of the line. They left mounds of trash and beer bottles in their wake.
According to an lengthy account of the concert by Washington Post reporters Lawrence Feinberg and Tom Zito, things soon got even more chaotic. On the morning of Saturday, June 9, the turnstiles were scheduled to open at noon. But 45 minutes before that, a restless mob of 2,000 tore down a gate, and about half of them forced their way into the stadium before District police were able to blockade the entrance. At that point, stadium officials decided to open all of the gates, and thousands more rushed in to grab seats, which weren’t reserved.
With the multitude quickly in place, the party from the night before resumed, as Texas rocker Doug Sahm opened the show. The police had been so overwhelmed by the size of the crowd that they didn’t stop them from bringing in coolers full of wine and bottles of liquor. The Post reported that drug dealers roamed through the crowd, selling marijuana and Quaaludes as if they were bags of peanuts. (Because of the latter, ‘many of the passageways to the grandstands contained youths who were sprawled out on the concrete with their eyes closed,’ Feinberg and Zito wrote.) One male reveler discarded his clothes and roamed through the stands in the nude. Though he and 17 others were arrested for disorderly conduct, for the most part, ‘the crowd was peaceable,’ the reporters noted. Those in the first-day crowd of 53,000 who weren’t stoned on downers spent much of the time dancing, despite the 90-degree heat.
The bacchanalia grew so frenzied that when Larry Magid, the concert’s promoter, climbed atop a brace holding the stage wall in place to survey the crowd around noon, even he was dismayed. ‘This is no fun!’ he told a Post reporter.
Things were equally crazy for the performers. According to Paul’s book on the Allman Brothers, the pressure that came with the band’s growing fame and success was taking its toll on the musicians. But in Washington, the stress came to a head. The Dead’s roadies–who were, as Weir noted, ‘evangelical about LSD and had no compunction about dosing people’–were slipping it into the food and drinks backstage. The Allman Brothers musicians themselves had been warned beforehand, and kept their hands on their beer cans to cover them, but the band’s crew didn’t get the word, and some undoubtedly spent the afternoon struggling to work in a hallucinatory haze. Allmans roadie Kim Payne recalled opening a case of cables and freaking out–‘they were all moving and looked like snakes,’ as he later told Paul. At one point, a brawl even broke out between some of the crew and record company executives.”
The Post seems to think the Allmans stole the first show. That’s fine. But the Dead won the second. Again, the Post…
“The Sunday concert attracted a smaller crowd of about 30,000, who packed the infield, making it ‘as uncomfortable as a New York subway car during rush hour,’ according to a Post account by Zito and Megan Rosenfeld. The dancing throng was joined by saffron-robed members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, who handed out incense sticks and tried preaching to the intoxicated. At one point in the show, fans scaled two iron scaffoldings in the infield–hanging from them, according to the Post, ‘like denim monkeys,’ until police made them get down. The Dead, who this time headlined the show, started out with ‘Morning Dew’ and gave an ultramarathon performance, playing for six hours before concluding with a cover of Chuck Berry’s ‘Johnny B. Goode.’ They got a negative review from Rolling Stone critic [Gordon] Fletcher, who complained that ‘though they frequently displayed commendable instrumental virtuosity, they suffered from a relative paucity of musical ideas.’ “
Hahahaha. Whatever, Fletch.
Guys, this show is top five, imo. It hasn’t gotten an official release, but it’s worth your time. The band opens with a relaxed Morning Dew. There’s a fun Wave That Flag (with the pre-U.S. Blues lyrics), a nice Bird Song, a still-upbeat They Love Each Other, and a long and interesting Playing in the Band in the first set. The second set opens with an incredibly extended Eyes of the World > Stella Blue segment. Then there’s a well-rendered Here Comes Sunshine and a huge Dark Star > He’s Gone > Wharf Rat > Truckin’ segment. The third set features Dickey Betts and Butch Trucks from the ABB, and the NFA > GDTRFB > NFA sandwich is great.
If you want to hear the Dead’s 6/9 set, Dave Usborne’s matrix recording is HERE. (Ed says the highlights are They Love Each Other, Loose Lucy, the post Truckin’ Jam > Playing in the Band, and the Eyes of the World > China Doll segment.) A stream of the Allman’s 6/10 set is HERE. And download links for the Allman’s 6/9 and 6/10 sets are HERE.
Finally, Gregg Allman.
I liked the Allmans when I was a kid – Ramblin’ Man is one of the first songs that I remember, and Jessica was staple in high school. Neither are Gregg songs, obviously. I didn’t understand how cool he was until college. The simple depth of Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More resonated to lazy sophomore me, and still does. His voice and keyboards have been part of the twenty-some years of my life since then. The good times and the bad ones.
Gregg Allman died on May 27, one day after my dad. Rest in peace, brother. You will be missed.
I have Friday playlists in the works, and next month’s Dead show is Colorado-y.